Photographer: Stephen D. Hight Affiliation: USDA Agricultural Research Service Source: Bugwood.org Copyright: (CC BY 3.0)
The Brazilian pepper-tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) can grow to 30 or 40 feet in height with a trunk hidden beneath thick branches. The leaves are often ribbed, 1-2 inches in length, and can have a red tint. The flowers are 2-3 inches long, white in color, and are difficult to differentiate between male and female parts. Brazilian pepper-tree fruits are small red berries measuring 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter. These glossy berries are first green, but become red when ripe.
The Brazilian pepper-tree is an aggressive plant that forms dense thickets preventing native grasses and shrubs from receiving enough light. This plant is considered one of the greatest threats to native biodiversity for its dramatic affect on both plant and animal communities by reducing quality of life. The Brazilian pepper-tree is from the family Anacardiaceae which includes plants such as poison oak and poison ivy. As a result people who are allergic to these plants are likely to be allergic to the Brazilian pepper-tree. There have also been reports of Brazilian pepper-tree blooms causing respiratory irritation among allergic individuals.
The Brazilian pepper-tree primarily utilizes birds and mammals for dispersal, but seeds may also be dispersed via flowing water. The seed remains viable for up to two months after dispersal. Brazilian pepper-trees mature 3 years after germination and produce a large amount of seeds. Male and female flowers bloom September through November and are fruitful December through February.
Introduction of the Brazilian pepper-tree occurred in the 1800s in Florida as an ornamental plant desired for its festive colors appropriate for Christmas time. The Brazilian pepper-tree was also sold as an ornamental in Texas. This plant was considered a nuisance weed in the 1950's resulting in prohibition of importation, sale, and distribution.
Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay
Habitat: The Brazilian pepper-tree invades disturbed areas such as fallow fields, ditches, drained wetlands, roadsides, and pine forests. With a high tolerance for shade and low tolerance for cold temperatures this plant is restricted to warmer southern areas of the United States.
U.S. Present: CA, FL, HI, PR, TX, VA
For established trees, apply an herbicide containing glyphosate or triclopyr to the cut stump immediately after cutting, or apply triclopyr with a penetrating oil to basal bark 0.75 feet from the ground. Use foliar applications of herbicide for seedlings. When mechanically removing the plant ensure that the entire plant, including the root system, is removed. Burning is considered an ineffective stand alone method because the Brazilian pepper-tree can regrow from roots alone. There are no known biological controls at this time.
Google Search: Schinus terebinthifolius
Google Images: Schinus terebinthifolius
NatureServe Explorer: Schinus terebinthifolius
USDA Plants: Schinus terebinthifolius
Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States: Schinus terebinthifolius
Bugwood Network Images: Schinus terebinthifolius
Francis, J.K. Schinus terebinthifolius (Raddi) Brazilian pepper-tree. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Gioeli, K. and K. Langeland. 1997. Brazilian Pepper-tree Control. Publication SS-AGR-17. Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
Gonzalez, Lisa, and Jeff DallaRosa. 2006. The Quiet Invasion: A Guide to Invasive Plants of the Galveston Bay Area. Houston Advanced Research Center. <www.galvbayinvasives.org>
Hall, D.W. 2003. Weeds in Florida, SP 37, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
Langeland, K.A. and K. Craddock Burks. 1998. Identification and Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas. IFAS Publication SP 257. University of Florida, Gainesville. 165 pp.